For most people, a comfortable mattress in the size they like is a good enough reason to say they have a great mattress.
However, as a consumer, you also have the right to know what goes into the mattress you purchase, especially when you’ll be using it for several years. So whether you are wondering what materials go into your mattress for health reasons, or are merely curious about what goes where, the information below can help shed light on this matter.
Photo by Burst
Here is a list of materials commonly used in the mattress industry:
There are two types of latex: natural and synthetic.
Natural latex is harvested from Indian rubber trees or the Hevea brasiliensis, which is said to be endemic to Brazil but also thrives in Africa and Southeast Asia. To collect the raw material, rubber tappers strip some bark off the tree to release the latex into collection cups.
One thing to consider with natural latex is that not all-natural latex is organic, while all organic latex is natural. Organic latex comes with a certification of environmental approval. High-quality organic latex mattresses made by reputable companies like Nature’s Embrace use latex certified by the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS), so you’re assured that they are free of chemicals and synthetic ingredients.
Natural latex is known to provide superior support. It is also resistant to mould, fungus, bed bugs, and dust mites. Its temperature-regulating property will keep you cool and comfortable even as your body warms during sleep.
Synthetic latex is the product of the polymerisation of petroleum. Aside from being cheaper to produce, synthetic latex provides more flexibility in mattress firmness and comfort. However, there are latex mattresses labelled “natural” but comprise a blend of natural and synthetic latex.
Foam is one of the most popular materials used in making mattresses. Aside from polyurethane foam or polyfoam, other types of foam have been introduced over the years, such as memory foam or viscoelastic foam and gel memory foam.
One of the reasons behind the popularity of foam as a mattress material is its affordability. Polyfoam usually functions as support or transitional layer in mattresses, while there are also beds with polyfoam comfort layers.
Memory foam is known for its body contouring quality, making it popular among people suffering from back pain. Its ability to isolate movement also makes it an excellent choice for those who share their bed with restless sleepers.
In general, foam tends to trap heat, which is the primary reason behind the invention of gel memory foam mattresses. These contain additional cooling gel beads that draw heat away from the body. There are other types of “cooling foam” that use materials like copper, graphite, and bamboo.
Foam is a petroleum-based synthetic material, so it’s highly flammable. This is why manufacturers add chemical fire retardants to foam mattresses to meet flammability standards.
Typical foam mattresses also begin to sag after five years of use, so it’s not unusual to find a permanent dent in the centre of your bed after this period.
3. Steel coils
Steel coils provide structure and support to innerspring and memory coil mattresses. They come in either open formats or as pocketed, individually wrapped coils. Although many mattress manufacturers continue to use steel coils, some brands have begun to shift away from using springs or coils in their products.
Innerspring beds are generally affordable but don’t hold up as well as other types of mattresses, so they get worn faster. Then there’s the audible squeaking sound they produce that makes them less desirable to some customers.
4. Polyester batting
Batting refers to the filling used in pillow-top mattresses and mattress covers, as well as in making DIY cushions and pillows. It helps keep the mattress looking plump and gives it a comfortable, plush feel. However, since it’s made from polyester (a type of plastic), it is also highly flammable.
Cotton is a well-known durable and breathable natural material used to serve as padding and add softness in mattresses. It can also be used as the primary filling material in futon mattresses.
Note that there’s a clear distinction between conventionally produced cotton and organic cotton. Traditionally farmed cotton is sprayed with pesticides and may be treated with chemicals during production. Organic cotton is always certified by third-party inspection and certification firms like EcoCert.
Wool is another natural material used in mattresses. It has excellent temperature regulation properties, is water-resistant, and is also used to provide extra padding.
Wool can be organic and non-organic. If you’re concerned about chemicals being used in your mattress, look for proof of organic certification like EcoCert.
Aside from being the principal material in featherbeds, feathers are also used in mattress toppers. Goose feathers are combined with down to provide a soft, billowy feel too hard or overly firm mattresses. Feather toppers absorb very little body heat, so they stay cool and comfortable overnight.
Absorbent and durable, hempure is a natural, pesticide-free alternative to polyester. Hempure is usually combined with wool and flax to be used as soft mattress filling.
9. Bonding adhesives
Layers, various materials, and seams need to be bonded together to achieve the perfect fit and durability in mattresses. Quilting is done afterwards to reinforce the bonds and improve fit.
There are solvent-based, water-based, and hot-melt types of adhesives. The latter two are considered better options as they are not toxic to humans and the environment.
10. Flame retardants
In compliance with flammability or fire-resistance laws, mattress manufacturers add chemical fire or flame retardants to their products. A natural alternative to chemicals is wool, but it is considered time-consuming and more expensive to produce.
However, as the mattress industry continues to innovate and move toward sustainability, viable alternatives should be available shortly.
Time for a mattress check
If you’re concerned about what goes into your mattress, check the label or ask the seller if they have any information regarding the materials used in the mattress you want to purchase. You can also check directly with the manufacturer.
But for your peace of mind, always go for brands that are transparent with the materials they use.